How to customize and personalize the Start screen in Windows 8.1

The Start screen in Windows 8 is the one stop shop for touch screen users to access everything on their PC. It is your personalized home screen where you can pin the tiles you want for Modern apps, desktop programs, website shortcuts, settings and even your most needed files. You can also search from the Start screen to access local files on your hard drive or web resources. The Start screen provides several options to make it look more personal and unique so it can suit your needs. Today I would like to cover these Start screen personalization features.

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In this article, we shall see

To access the personalization options of the Start screen, you need to do the following:

  1. Open the Start screen by pressing the Start button or pressing the Win key.
  2. Once you are on the Start screen, press Win + I keys on the keyboard. The settings charm will appear on the screen. Click/tap the 'Personalize' link there.
    Personalize

Here you can change the Start Screen background image, the background color and the accent color.

Personalize section

Change the Start screen background color

background color

From the 'Background color' section you can pick the desired background color for the Start screen. This is very simple. You can pick from 18 predefined colors available in the Settings charm and then choose between 18 shades of that color. Unfortunately, there is no way to use a custom color there, as the Start screen only allows using colors from a preset palette.
The color you pick here will not only be used as the Start screen background, but also as the sign-in color.

For example, suppose you have set the red color as your Start screen background. The next time you sign in, you will see the "Welcome" text on the red background!
However, when you restart Windows 8, after the reboot you will see the default color which may be a different one, and after you type your password (or sign in automatically), you will see the Welcome text on the red background. That is because Windows 8 has two colors for the logon screen. The color you see initially before logging is the default color for the system logon screen. You also see this color when you sign out from your user account. It shows all user accounts listed on a default blue background. Windows 8 does not provide any way to change this system logon screen background color.

If you wish to change it, you can use my freeware, Lock Screen Customizer.

Lock Screen Customizer for Windows 8.1

It comes with a setting to change the default login screen color. See this article for more details.

Additionally, you might want to use the same color for window frames and for the Start screen background. Using my ColorSync app, you can set your Start screen background color to match the color of window frames of desktop apps and vice versa. ColorSync is a very exciting app to play with.

Change the Accent color

accent color

The accent color is used to highlight selected or focused elements on the Start screen and inside the PC Settings app. The App Bar which appears when you press Win+Z also shows in the accent color. Using the Settings charm, you can pick the accent color too from 18 predefined colors and then refine your choice between 12 shades. Changing the accent colors also affects some elements of the Start screen background. The accent color is used for various shapes, stripes and ornaments overlaid on the background images of the Start screen.

Change the background image of Start screen

backgrounds

The Settings charms allows you to set various artsy backgrounds. While some of them are too gaudy to be used as backgrounds, some of them are lovely. The animated ones are particularly interesting. You can also change the colors as described above after you pick the background.
red dragon
It is also possible to disable the Start screen background art and use only a plain background color. Use the appropriate preset in the Settings charm:

solid color

Additionally, the Start screen in Windows 8.1 can use the background image (wallpaper) which you have set on the Desktop. Click or tap on the last box in the preset list.
desktop wallpaper

Microsoft added this last option so the transition from Desktop to Metro and vice versa feels less jarring. For me, it doesn't change the fact that the user has to transition into another environment which works in a completely different way from the Desktop.

Selecting tiles

To select tiles you must right click them so you see the various options that are applicable to them. To select multiple tiles, the method is different before Update 1 and after applying Update 1. If you are running Windows 8.1 without Update 1 installed, then you can select multiple tiles by right clicking each of them, one by one. If you have Update 1 installed, you must hold down the Ctrl key and then left click to select them as you could select files in File Explorer. You can also hold down Ctrl key and use the Space bar (while Ctrl is held down) to select tiles using the keyboard.

Resize and organize Tiles

The Start screen allows you to organize tiles in named groups.

To move a tile to a new group, drag the tile to an empty space between the existing groups until you see a faint vertical bar. Release the mouse button - and a new group will be created for this tile.

new group

To move a tile from one group to another, drag and drop it to the new group.

move tile

Sort groups of tiles

Once you have organized all your tiles into groups, you can reorder the groups themselves. Just click the 'minus sign' button in the right bottom corner of the Start screen. The view of the Start screen will be zoomed out.

zoomed out viewIn this view, you can select entire groups at once and move them by drag-and-drop. Rearrange the groups in any order you want.

move groups

Rename tile groups
To rename your groups, right click on an empty space of the Start screen, and choose 'Name groups' from its context menu.

name groups

You will be able to enter the group's title:

type the group name

Resize tiles

  1. On the Start screen, press and hold the tile you want to resize. (If you’re using a mouse, right-click the tile.)
  2. Tap or click Resize.
  3. Choose the size you want.
    resize tiles

Start screen animations

By default, the Start screen animates the tiles slowly when you first sign in but the animation is much faster when you switch to the Start screen subsequently. It is possible to tweak these animations, i.e. make them faster or slower, or change their behavior. You can make the animation play every time you switch to the Start screen!

Refer to the following article to learn all about the hidden settings related to Start screen animations:
Enable advanced animations for the Start Screen in Windows 8

If you don't prefer animations and wish for a faster, instantly responding user interface, you can disable all the Start screen animations.

Change the icons of pinned apps

new tile icon

It is not clear to many users how to change the icons of pinned desktop apps on the Start screen. There is no direct option to change those icons. We have a nice tutorial for that - How to change the icon of a pinned desktop app on the Start screen.

Pinning more stuff to the Start screen

native_pin_1

The Start screen is not just for pinning apps shortcuts. You can pin favorite websites from Internet Explorer, or your contacts from the People app. Folders can be pinned from File Explorer by right clicking them and selecting Pin to Start. But what about pinning other files such as documents, music files, videos, pictures, drives, Control Panel items, special folders or Libraries? At Winaero, we have developed an app called Pin to 8 to unlock this functionality in Windows 8.1. Read more about Pin to 8 in this article: How to add the “Pin to Start Screen” menu item to all files in Windows 8.1

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2 thoughts on “How to customize and personalize the Start screen in Windows 8.1

  1. sharath

    i want to know how to personalize the color of individual tiles

    Reply
    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      It is not possible.

      Reply

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